West Point Gives Award for Pro-Gays in Military Paper

A conservative critic of the military is questioning West Point’s decision to give an award to a cadet for a pro-gay paper.

Second Lieutenant Alexander Raggio describes himself as the straightest guy imaginable; but in his senior thesis at West Point Academy, he argued that the military’s policy banning homosexuals from service is not only wrong but harmful to America’s armed services. For his controversial paper, the then-senior cadet received an award from the Academy’s English Department.

This incident has led Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, to wonder what officials at the Academy were thinking. “I do intend to bring this to the attention of some of the people in the leadership roles at West Point,” she says. “I think it ought to be questioned.” Donnelly says this is the first she has heard of Raggio’s commendation from the English department, but news of the faculty’s conferral of honor on a graduating cadet for his pro-homosexual thesis has given rise to some grave concerns. “Certainly,” she asserts, “it does call into question the judgment of those who gave this award.”

Maybe it was just a really well written paper? A student essay that takes a controversial stance and provides sound argument is always going to stand out in a sea of bland papers that conclude “and I agree with both sides because they have some really good points.”

On the merits, Andrew Sullivan observes that, “Several recent polls have found that 60 to 80 percent of Americans believe the military’s ban on honest gay servicemembers should be lifted. 55 Arab linguists and 244 military medical personnel have been fired under the policy.”

David Schraub notes, too, that, “any view that seeks to change a policy is going to be ‘contrary’ to that policy until the change occurs. Trying to stifle or discourage views that challenge prevailing orthodoxy is indistinguishable from saying change should never happen.” True that. Fortunately, our military, especially in its educational system and journals, is quite open to respectful debate on issues of public policy so long as leaders actually obey and enforce the policy while it is in force.

Meanwhile, Kathryn Jean Lopez trots out the strawman that Sullivan is “now of the position that an American can’t question U.S. military leadership.” Not to be outdone, John Aravosis charges that,

The religious right wants to purge anyone from government who doesn’t toe their far-right bigoted line. They don’t seem to care a lick about national security, nor about winning wars and defeating terrorists and keeping us all safe. What they care about is pleasing their warped view of a vengeful God who apparently has so much time on His hands that he cares about some essay a kid wrote in school.

Well, no. We’ve got one woman saying the judgment of the West Point English department should be questioned.

UPDATE (Chris Lawrence): Lt. Raggio responds to Donnelly in our comments:

The CRM doesn’t like my thesis? Ouch. I guess I’ll just have to seek out the opinions of people whose views on military readiness don’t include giving up the things that make a free society great.

As far as allowing academic freeedom, I honestly believe that the freedom at West Point is far greater than at most state schools. The Army doesn’t want mindless drones, it wants thoughtful leaders.

Yes, I will obey the regulations as they currently read, but because this was expected of me, I was permitted and indeed encouraged to express my beliefs in an academic setting.

FILED UNDER: Education, Gender Issues, Military Affairs, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Hey, haven’t you people been listening the past few years? Any questioning of current policy is disloyalty.

  2. Ryan says:

    Would you rather they gave an award to the most anti-gay, the most homophobic?
    you are a bigoted fool!

  3. It would be interesting to change the post title to,

    “West Point Gives Award for Pro-Blacks in Military Paper.”

    Why do you feel threatened by equality?

  4. If you really want to see controversy check out Billy Mitchell. Can air power sink battleships? Real controversy with a real impact. The debate was tabled on December 7, 1941 and decided in favor of air power June 7 1942. Billy was demoted, posted to hell on earth (also known as west Texas), courtmartialled and chose to resign. He died about 10 years later.

    But the B-25 (of Doolittle raid fame) was nicknamed after him.

    Here we have a private NGO person who questions if someone should get an English department award. Heap big controversy…not.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Nicolai: That doesn’t make much sense. Did you actually read the post?

  6. ron says:

    I have heard (pure rumor, no evidence) that the Army does the best job of all the services of prompting and promoting debate within their academic community. That an award winning paper happened to be pro-gay is no more surprising than an award winning paper convincingly advocating the current course of action by Army leadership. If you have doubts about the academic freedom enjoyed by army scholars, attempt to get hold of some of their professional military education papers or their professional journal. (I am Air Force and not a shill for the Army)

  7. Alex Raggio says:

    The CRM doesn’t like my thesis? Ouch. I guess I’ll just have to seek out the opinions of people whose views on military readiness don’t include giving up the things that make a free society great.

    As far as allowing academic freeedom, I honestly believe that the freedom at West Point is far greater than at most state schools. The Army doesn’t want mindless drones, it wants thoughtful leaders.

    Yes, I will obey the regulations as they currently read, but because this was expected of me, I was permitted and indeed encouraged to express my beliefs in an academic setting.